Stuffed Banana Peppers+


  • 6 to 8 large banana peppers
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (could use less)
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, diced
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 12 to 16 bacon slices (takes more than one package if you really want to fully wrap peppers)
  • could add bread crumbs to soak up some of the cheese?

How to Make It

Pre-step: works well to partially cook the bacon before wrapping the peppers

Step 1

Cut a slit lengthwise in each banana pepper, cutting to, but not through, other side. Remove seeds.

Step 2

Combine cheese and next 6 ingredients. Spoon mixture evenly into each pepper, and wrap each with 2 bacon slices; secure with wooden picks. Place peppers on a rack in a broiler pan.

Step 3

Broil 5 1/2 inches from heat 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas


  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour (2 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten


1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine canola oil, 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and egg in a medium bowl. Gradually add oil mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Knead lightly until smooth. Shape dough into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.

2. Preheat broiler.

3. Place poblano on a foil-lined baking sheet; broil 8 minutes or until blackened, turning after 6 minutes. Place in a paper bag; close tightly. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel chile; cut in half lengthwise. Discard seeds and membranes. Finely chop.

4. Preheat oven to 400°.

5. Cook the cumin seeds in a large saucepan over medium heat 1 minute or until toasted, stirring constantly. Place cumin in a clean spice or coffee grinder; process until ground. Combine cumin, poblano, sweet potatoes, and next 5 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt) in a large bowl; mash with a fork until almost smooth.

6. Divide dough into 10 equal portions, shaping each into a ball. Roll each dough portion into a (5-inch) circle on a lightly floured surface. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), spoon 3 level tablespoons poblano mixture into center of each circle. Moisten edges of dough with egg white; fold dough over filling. Press edges together to seal. Place empanadas on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cut 3 diagonal slits across top of each empanada. Bake at 400° for 16 minutes or until lightly browned.

Yield: 10 servings (1 empanada)

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving
  • Calories: 209
  • Fat: 8.4g
  • Protein: 5.1g
  • Carbohydrate: 29g
  • Fiber: 2.9g

Candied Bacon Cashews

  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 1/4 lb. raw cashews
  • 1/4 c diced, cooked bacon
  • half of the bacon fat from cooking
  • 1 Tbsp cold butter
  • smoked salt

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until boiling.  Add the cashews and stir continuously.  Use a pastry brush dipped in water to occasionally wipe the inside of the pot.

When the water evaporates and the sugar is carmelized, stir in the bacon.  Turn off the heat and add the bacon fat, butter and smoked salt to taste.  Transfer to a greased cookie sheet to cool, then break apart.

Traditional Spinach Artichoke Dip+

Not for the waist-watchers!

  • 2 c shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 10 oz box frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 2/3 c low fat sour cream
  • 1 8 oz pkg 1/3 less fat cream cheese
  • 1/3 c light mayo
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 375

Mix together parmesan cheese, spinach and artichoke hearts

Combine remaining ingredients and mix with spinach mixture

Bake 20-30 minutes (or more- depends on how thick your layer is)

Serve with crackers or toasted bread

Note: I reheated several times during course of party to keep warm and fresh

Parmesan Zucchini Sticks with Smoky Roasted Romesco Sauce+

One Note:  the sauce for this appetizer is amazing and can be served with pasta for a side or main dish.  It is A LOT of work to make.  So – if you’re in a rush, you can definitely buy a marinara dipping sauce that all will love – and it will likely be saltier and meet the expectations of unsuspecting guests who don’t know what they are missing.


  • Sauce:
  • 3 medium red bell peppers
  • 2 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup (1/2-inch) cubed French bread baguette, crusts removed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked almonds
  • 1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • Zucchini:
  • 3 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • Cooking spray


1. Preheat broiler.

2. To prepare sauce, cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place bell pepper halves and tomatoes, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten bell peppers with hand. Broil 10 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel and coarsely chop, reserving any liquid.

3. Combine bell peppers, reserved liquid, tomatoes, and next 8 ingredients (through garlic) in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.

4. Preheat oven to 400°.

5. To prepare zucchini, cut 1 zucchini in half crosswise; cut each half lengthwise into 8 wedges. Repeat procedure with remaining zucchini. Combine breadcrumbs, panko, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a shallow dish. Dip zucchini in egg substitute; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place zucchini on a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat zucchini with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with sauce.

Nutritional Information

  • Amount per serving
  • Calories: 170
  • Calories from fat: 30%
  • Fat: 5.6g
  • Saturated fat: 1.3g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 2.5g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.3g
  • Protein: 8.4g
  • Carbohydrate: 23.4g
  • Fiber: 3.9g
  • Cholesterol: 3mg
  • Iron: 1.9mg
  • Sodium: 434mg
  • Calcium: 107mg


Polenta Squares with Gorgonzola and Pine Nuts+

I would use a larger pan for the polenta so that it is more like 1/2 inch thick.  Also, rather than drizzling the reduced vinegar on top, I would let the bottoms of the squares soak in it to give in a nice dark bottom (like the photo in Cooking Light 12/2010 mag.).  The flavor is great, but they look a little “dirty” with the dark vinegar soaking in on top.

Yield: 10 servings (serving size: 3 topped polenta squares)

4 cups water
1 cup quick-cooking polenta
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter
Cooking spray
1/4 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons currants
1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually add polenta and salt, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat to low, and cook for 4 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Stir in butter. Spoon polenta into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray, spreading evenly. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of polenta; chill for 1 hour or until polenta is very firm. Cut into 30 squares.

2. Combine 1/4 cup boiling water and currants in a small bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes or until currants are plump; drain. Combine currants, cheese, pine nuts, and orange rind in a small bowl.

3. Heat vinegar in a small saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons (about 10 minutes). Cool slightly.

4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add half of polenta squares to pan, and cook for 6 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove polenta squares from pan, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with the remaining polenta. Top each square with rounded 1/2 teaspoon of cheese mixture, and drizzle with about 1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Garnish with parsley.

CALORIES 130 ; FAT 4.2g (sat 1.7g,mono 1.1g,poly 1g); CHOLESTEROL 6mg; CALCIUM 33mg; CARBOHYDRATE 19.8g; SODIUM 268mg; PROTEIN 3.1g; FIBER 1.9g; IRON 0.7mg

Clams Casino with Pancetta+

Soak the clams for about 10-15 minutes before shucking.  I found a great video demonstrating how to shuck clams.  It is kind of time-consuming, but these appetizers were well liked by all.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 3 clams)

Cooking spray
3/4 cup finely diced pancetta – get the store to slice this thin
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (1 1/2-ounce) slice day-old country white bread (I used some stuffing mix but crushed croutons would also work)
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
36 littleneck clams, cleaned (this was about 2 lbs)
Lemon wedges (optional)

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pancetta to pan; cook 6 minutes or until pancetta begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Add wine; cook until liquid evaporates (about 30 seconds), scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add bell pepper, shallots, and garlic to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Place pancetta mixture in a medium bowl.

Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure about 3/4 cup. Add breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, and black pepper to pancetta mixture; stir until blended.

Preheat broiler.

Discard any clams with broken or open shells. Shuck clams; discard top halves of shells. Top each clam with about 1 rounded teaspoon pancetta mixture. Broil 4 minutes; turn pan. Broil an additional 3 minutes or until tops are browned and clams are done. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

CALORIES 61 (43% from fat); FAT 2.9g (sat 1.2g,mono 1g,poly 0.3g); IRON 3.9mg; CHOLESTEROL 15mg; CALCIUM 25mg; CARBOHYDRATE 3.2g; SODIUM 163mg; PROTEIN 5.3g; FIBER 0.1g

Vegetable Samosas with Mint Chutney

2 points

This looks a lot like the curried vegetable samosas recipe, but uses phyllo dough instead.  I’ll have to compare and decide which one I like better.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 2 samosas and 1 1/2 teaspoons chutney)

1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2/3 cup shredded carrot
2/3 cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
8 (14 x 9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare chutney, combine first 8 ingredients in a food processor; process 1 minute or until smooth. Spoon mixture into a bowl; cover and refrigerate.

3. To prepare samosas, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion to pan, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrot, and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peas, mustard seeds, garam masala, and salt; cover and cook 2 minutes. Stir in potatoes; remove from heat.

4. Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time, cut each sheet lengthwise into 3 (3 x 14-inch) strips, and coat with cooking spray. (Cover remaining phyllo dough to keep from drying.) Spoon 1 tablespoon potato mixture onto 1 end of each strip. Fold 1 corner of phyllo dough over mixture, forming a triangle; keep folding back and forth into a triangle to end of strip. Place triangles, seam sides down, on a baking sheet. Brush triangles with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature with chutney.

CALORIES 89 ; FAT 3.6g (sat 0.7g,mono 2.3g,poly 0.5g); CHOLESTEROL 1mg; CALCIUM 21mg; CARBOHYDRATE 13g; SODIUM 217mg; PROTEIN 2.2g; FIBER 1.6g; IRON 0.9mg

Curried Vegetable Samosas with Cilantro-Mint Chutney+

5 points

Yield:  4 servings (serving size: 5 samosas and about 1 tablespoon chutney)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped
1 (1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger

1 1/4 cups mashed cooked peeled baking potatoes
1/4 cup cooked yellow lentils
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed
10 egg roll wrappers
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

1. To prepare chutney, combine first 9 ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. Set aside.

2. To prepare samosas, combine potatoes, lentils, mint, curry powder, 1 teaspoon butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cumin. Gently fold in peas.

3. Working with 1 egg roll wrapper at a time (cover remaining wrappers to prevent drying), cut down middle to form 2 long rectangles. Moisten edges of wrapper with egg. Spoon 1 tablespoon potato mixture near bottom edge of wrapper. Fold up from 1 corner to the opposite outer edge of the wrapper, making a triangle. Fold over to opposite side again as if folding up a flag. Repeat fold to opposite side to form a triangle. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.

4. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Lightly coat samosas with cooking spray. Add samosas to pan, and cook 1 minute on each side. Drain on paper towels. Serve with chutney.

CALORIES 288 ; FAT 2.6g (sat 0.9g,mono 0.5g,poly 0.2g); CHOLESTEROL 29mg; CALCIUM 43mg; CARBOHYDRATE 58.3g; SODIUM 574mg; PROTEIN 11g; FIBER 5.4g; IRON 4.6mg